The Austin Chronicle

On the Bailey Train

By Michael King, January 30, 2011, 4:37pm, Newsdesk

Saturday afternoon at Scholz Garten, Kris Bailey – with nods to marijuana legalization and Willie Nelson, the voice of the “TeaPot Party” – declared that he has a “passion for the issues and the need for regime change,” and officially kicked off his campaign for City Council Place 3.

A small but lively group of libertarians, stoners, and diners greeted the brief program, led off by campaign staffer Robert Butler, formerly executive director of the Libertarian Party of Texas. Butler began by saying that Bailey's campaign is not just about “one person or one cause, but about people's freedom to decide what to do with their own bodies." He said Bailey has demonstrated that he can "stand up to pressure” during his previous campaign for state representative in Dist. 47, where he ran as a Libertarian, "and did us proud. … He's been tried and tested."

Butler introduced A. Whitney Brown, the comic and comedy writer who has worked on both Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, now living in Austin, and who described himself as still hoping to become “the Whitney Brown.” Most of his jokes were of that vintage, although he did say that he came by his support for Bailey and opposition to marijuana laws honestly – having been busted in Texas years ago for possession of two joints, for which he received a sentence of 2 to 99 years. He served only a year (the laws began to change while he was in prison), but he doesn't recommend it: “They let anybody in there.”

Brown also offered practical reasons for legalization, e.g., "American farmers grow the best pot in the world." He said he had traveled throughout the world, including Amsterdam, and that the best pot he had smoked in the last year "was grown indoors right here in Texas." If pot were legal, we could be shipping it all over the world to our industrial competitors, whose products would deteriorate accordingly: "Toyotas would soon be as crappy as Fords." Repeating Nelson's published endorsement – "The TeaPot Party was started to help people like Kris Bailey get elected" – Brown introduced the candidate.

In his brief speech, Bailey briefly reiterated the three basis tenets of his campaign:
1) Cannabis should be “legalized – period,” and it should be an issue in every candidate and every election, because :we're tired of our neighbors and friends getting arrested and imprisoned"
2) The City Council should move to single-member districts, for greater "accountability"
3) The city should "reconsider" the regulations on sound permits, because they are stifling Austin's music scene and industry. He asked those who have a "passion for these issues and for regime change" to join his campaign.

Afterward, in the beer garden, NewsDesk asked Bailey a few followup questions. He said he had chosen to run in Place 3, currently held by Randi Shade, for a couple of reasons. "Kris Bailey running against Chris Riley [Place 1] … that just wasn't gonna work [because of the name jingle]," he began. "And then I understand Laura Morrison [Place 4] has been good on some privacy issues. So it seemed like Place 3 was the best place to run in."

Asked what he thought City Council can do about state marijuana laws, Bailey said, "We need to bring the city to a policy of non-enforcement." He noted that while the city's official policy is now in accord with state law allowing officers to "cite-and-release" for simple possession, it's his understanding that "Chief [Art] Acevedo has not been doing that." He said the figures he has from 2009 reflect 4,500 people arrested and booked for marijuana possession. "Cite-and-release is better than nothing," he concluded, "but we need to move to non-enforcement."

Concerning other city policies, Bailey said that Austin should get out of the utility business, and open up Austin Energy and Austin Water to private competition. "As it is now, customers can't take our business elsewhere," he said, and "government monopoly" is "not the American way." He also described problems of apparently arbitrary or unfair code enforcement in some neighborhoods (e.g., Fairview) as needing to be reviewed.

The oddest detail of the day was a flier distributed at Scholz's asking for campaign donations, designating $2,500 as “Platinum,” and soliciting continuing stipends as high as $250 a month. Asked if he understood that city campaign finance ordinances ban contributions above $350 total per person, Bailey and campaign staffer Butler both responded that they understood that limit to be "voluntary."

"I reviewed the campaign finance ordinance," said Butler, "and I thought it said that if you don't accept city matching funds, you don't have to abide by the limits." Informed by NewsDesk that in fact contributions above $350 per person are banned, Bailey said, "Thanks for telling us that – we'll fix that immediately." Another staffer added that only $25 had been raised that day.

Let's hope they spend it wisely.

For more on the council elections, see Council Challengers Take Their Marks and Counting the Campaign Money: It's a Bundle in this week's issue.

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